Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Passion of the Clerks

There’s a few things you should know about me before you take my thoughts on “Clerks II” to heart. First off, I love Kevin Smith—as a guy, and as a filmmaker (though I’m mezzo-mezzo on “Mallrats” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”). Secondly, I saw “Clerks II” a little over six weeks ago as a part of Vulgarthon, Smith’s mini-film festival he holds every year for his fans in New Jersey. So, as such, I saw it among about 150 or so Smith fanboys, many of whom had feasibly waited their whole lives for this movie.

Now that that’s out of the way, I feel confident in telling you that “Clerks II” is easily in Smith’s top 3 or 4 films (though many at Vulgarthon declared it THE best Smith film). I don’t think it quite reaches the heights of “Chasing Amy” or “Dogma,” but it certainly some of the heft of those films paired with the hilarity of the first “Clerks.”

The new film finds our heroes, Dante and Randall, from the first movie relieved of their positions at the Quick Stop (thanks to a Randall-caused fire), and working at fast-food joint Mooby’s (introduced in “Dogma”). Like “Clerks,” this installment mostly consists of random musings—such as a debate on “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings”—and set-pieces throughout their day. Making this an especially important workday is it’s Dante’s last day before moving to Florida with his obsessive fiancé.

Added to the mix are Rosario Dawson as Dante’s boss and potential love interest, and Trevor Fehrman as the hilariously naïve Elias, whose strange quirks come paired with a deep love for “Lord of the Rings,” Jesus and “Transformers.” Dawson is charming (and gorgeous) as ever, and like in “Rent,” she seamlessly ingratiates herself among an already established group. Ferman MAY give the funniest performance in the movie, is a participant in most of the movie’s most memorable moments (“pillowpants”), and I personally, would love to see a spin-off film.

Cameos by Jason Lee and Wanda Sykes are among the high notes, and ones by Smith alums Affleck and Ethan Suplee seem obligatory though no one will be complaining.

“Clerks II” has its fair share of hilarious scenes, like the previously referenced debate, an impromptu dance number set to “A-B-C” and Dante’s unexpected bachelor party. But what makes it stand apart is the level of heart contained therein. This movie clearly deals with issues very near and dear to Smith, and some may be surprised at the level of emotion prevalent late in the film. Nothing lame or unearned like a sentimental death scene or a tearful goodbye, just honest, sincere stuff that that gives “Clerks II” a bit more resonance than you might expect from a movie with prolonged discussions about “ass-to-mouth.”

Though most newbies will probably be scared off by the “II” in the title, I think this totally works as a movie on its own, and I could conceivably imagine those who’ve never seen a Smith movie finding it hilarious.

Smith plays it smart here, not giving Jay and Silent too much screentime due to their popularity—they’re in it just as much as the first “Clerks.” As it should be, the stars here are Dante and Randall.

Like all his films, it’s Smith’s writing that makes “Clerks II” as entertaining as it is, and nary a minute goes by without at least one really funny line of dialogue. It’s a worthy ’10 years later’ revisitation that, despite questions about whether it was necessary, I’m glad Smith decided to take and should satisfy all but the most stubborn of “Clerks” fans. And those new to the View Askewniverse will find what is, on its own, one of the funniest (and best) movies of the summer.


Post a Comment

<< Home